When you feel you may suffer with a mental health conditon, you may want to seek mental health help. This is a very hard step that takes a lot of courage. I mean, there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health problems, so you may feel awkward asking for help for something that’s “all in your head”.
When I took my first steps into the mental health system, it wasn’t by my own initiative. People with more severe mental illness relatively often find themselves being dragged into the system by other people. In my case, it was my staff at the training home for disabled people I resided at who took the initiative to send me to a psychiatrist.
In most countries, you’ll need a referral from your GP or another medical doctor (or sometimes a psychologist) to see a psychiatrist. I went to my GP for the referral, but couldn’t speak at all. I was totally locked up inside. It was my staff member who asked for the referral.
Once you see a mental health professional, the next step is telling them why you are seeing them. This may be hard too. Some people with more severe mental illness do not have insight into their illness. I didn’t when I was first seen by a psychiatrist, and that’s while I studied psychology at the time. Even if you do think you know what’ss wrong with you, it may be hard to articulate. Yu may feel shame, but you also may feel like you have trouble looking at your mental processes. I did. Many mental health professionals, especially those working with the severely mentally ill, will be understanding of this.
The mental health professional may ask you whether you have any idea of what type of help you’d like yourself. Don’t worry if you don’t have an answer to this. Most mental health professionals will understand that you may not have a clear understanding of what help you want, let alone what’s available or most effective with your problems. Particularly when you are severely or acutely mentally ill, the psychiatrist may have to give you limited options or recommend a particular treatment. For example, when I saw a psychiatrist about going on medication in the summer of 2007, she offered me two choices, one I’d come up with myself and another that she felt would be better suited. I chose to go along with her recommendation. Remember, as the patient, you have the right to informed consent, but you aren’t the expert on mental illness and its treatment. You know you best, but the psychiatrist knows what tends to work with your particular type of problems.